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Ground game powers North
North Forsyth's Jory Walsh is tackled after a solid gain during a scrimmage Friday against Alpharetta in Coal Mountain. The Raiders open the regular season Friday at home against West Forsyth. - photo by Jared Putnam

It won’t go in the record books, but what happened Friday night in Coal Mountain could be as big as any other step North Forsyth’s football program has ever taken.

The team piled up 259 yards on the ground en route to a 30-21 victory against the visiting Alpharetta Raiders, its first win in Raider Valley since beating Duluth at home on Oct. 20, 2006.

While Friday’s contest was classified as a scrimmage, both teams pulled out all the stops trying to notch a win.

North coach Jared Zito felt that his offense did a good job of adjusting to the different looks Alpharetta’s defense gave them after halftime.

“Another thing was just our ability to fight and not get our heads down,” the coach said.

“That was something last year that we never did. It verified what I thought all along, that our kids believe they can win, and I think winning a game like this probably means a lot more than if we just came in there and beat them 45-0. Wins and tight wins verify the kinds of things we’re trying to preach to them.”

North carried a 13-0 lead into halftime behind a 6-yard Tyler Slaton (27 carries, 138 yards rushing, 2 touchdowns) plunge into the end zone and a pair of field goals by Corey Reins.

Alpharetta battled back in the second half, cutting the lead to 27-21, thanks, in part, to a 75-yard touchdown pass and another that went for 54 yards.

But Reins made his presence felt on defense as well, intercepting a pass with just over three minutes to play to end a potential go-ahead scoring drive by Alpharetta. Reins then kicked a 34-yard field goal with 24.3 seconds left on the clock, cementing North’s victory.

“Defensively I thought we did a good job playing the run,” Zito said. “The two things we’ve got to work on are making better open-field tackles and we certainly cannot get beat deep. Offensively we just have to be more consistent and come off the ball like we can every down.”

North escaped damage early in the game despite turning the ball over on its own 12-yard line on the opening drive and botching a punt that set up Alpharetta 29 yards from the end zone on the next drive.

Alpharetta failed to convert on both opportunities.

“Early on it looked like offensively we weren’t going to do much and defensively we would really have a good game, and it really kind of went the other way a little bit,” Zito said.

“I told the kids that we certainly made our share of mistakes tonight, and we’ve got to work on them to get better.

We’ve got a long way to go before West [Forsyth], and it’s going to be a big game.”

The Wolverines and Raiders square off at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Coal Mountain.